"When I first ran in 1999, I committed to not only vote against congressional pay raises but also not to accept them and not join the fairly lucrative congressional pension system," Vitter says. Asked if he has been able to persuade other Louisiana congressional delegates to adopt his position, Vitter admits: "No, but I haven't particularly tried."
Opthamologist Monica Monica, a fellow Republican who is running to unseat Vitter, says the incumbent adopted the "no pay hike or pension" pledge from her unsuccessful campaign for the First District seat in 1999. "I talked to David about it, but he doesn't remember it that way," Monica says.
Annual salaries for other offices on Tuesday's ballot are: United States Senate, $150,000; Orleans Parish District Attorney, $104,904; judge of the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, $102,824; and judgeship at Criminal Court, $97,146.
Landrieu in Black and White
Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu needs to maintain her white support and generate a large black voter turn-out to win a primary victory in the Nov. 5 election, according to three independent pollsters.
"She should be concentrating on turnout of both blacks and whites because interest in the election is not high," says pollster Ed Renwick, who conducted a survey for WWL-TV. "Her white support is soft. And she will get 80 to 90 percent of the black vote [statewide], but she has to get the black vote to the polls."
Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat and Maryland-based Mason-Dixon Opinion Research also showed Landrieu with substantial leads over her three major Republican opponents: state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell of New Orleans; U.S. Rep. John Cooksey of Monroe, and state Rep. Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge. In interviews with the Associated Press, Pinsonat and Mason-Dixon analyst Brad Coker concurred with Renwick's view that Landrieu needs a high black voter turnout to win Nov. 5.
Landrieu's three major Republican challengers hope to force her into a run-off, where they can close ranks behind a GOP candidate for the Dec. 7 general election. Overall, Landrieu must win 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff. "When a high-ranking incumbent goes into a runoff it's a big problem because the majority voted against her in the primary -- and she's the best known and she holds the office," Renwick says.
Blacks comprise 29 percent of the vote statewide and 63 percent in Orleans Parish, a vote-rich Democratic stronghold. But African-American voter turnout has been relatively low in New Orleans this year, despite open seats for mayor this spring and for district attorney this fall. Overall, only 28 percent of New Orleanians cast ballots that sent two African-American candidates for District Attorney into the Nov. 5 run-off. "In the primary, turnout was 13 percent higher among non-blacks; normally it's six or seven percent higher," Renwick says.
Rich Masters, campaign press secretary for Landrieu, says Democratic pollsters project an overall statewide voter turnout of 45 to 50 percent. "She is polling at close to 40 percent of the white vote," Masters says of Landrieu. "The higher you get with white vote the less you need on the other end ... but we have to guard against complacency."
Bill Rouselle, a New Orleans political consultant who is handling Landrieu's statewide black radio campaign, predicts she will need a 65 to 70 percent African-American voter turnout in Orleans Parish to win the primary. The Landrieu camp is hoping to boost black voter turnout with a heavy radio campaign and direct mail targeted to African-American households, aided by traditional black political organizations. Rouselle says the Landrieu campaign's message to African-American voters highlights her support for improved access to health care, federal funding for Louisiana's five historically black colleges and universities, and home-buying initiatives for low- and middle-income residents. Landrieu favored ending racial profiling in law enforcement, he says, and obtained $100 million in Title 1 federal funding for indigent Louisiana public school students, including $30.8 million for Orleans Parish.
Overall, the Renwick/WWL-TV survey showed: "undecided" voters at 42 percent; Landrieu, 32 percent, Terrell, 12 percent; Cooksey, 8 percent; and Perkins, 2 percent, with four minor candidates splitting the remaining 4 percent.
Pinsonat's polling firm, Southern Media & Opinion Research, showed Landrieu with 45.1 percent of the vote. Her closest opponent, Terrell, carried 15.5 percent. The SMOR poll showed 24.6 percent undecided. Many of the undecided voters were black women, considered part of Landrieu's base, Pinsonat says.
The Mason-Dixon poll showed Landrieu with 44 percent; Terrell, 20 percent; Cooksey, 15 percent and Perkins, 6 percent. Twelve percent were undecided. The poll also showed 77 percent of black voters choosing Landrieu, who received 99 percent of the black vote in the 1996 Senate race. The poll showed Rev. Raymond Brown of New Orleans with 5 percent of the black vote. Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, says Landrieu pulled 31 percent of the white vote, a level usually adequate for a Democrat to win, assuming she again receives nine out of 10 black votes.
The Envelope, Please
Jim Brown has been locked up in federal prison for two weeks now. And he's been suspended from his elected position as state Insurance Commissioner for more than two years since his federal conviction for lying to the FBI in 1997. But the Department of Insurance continues to use yellow mailing envelopes bearing his old return address: "James H. 'Jim' Brown, Commissioner of Insurance, P.O. Box 94214, Baton Rouge, La. 70804-9214.
The practice will soon cease, a department spokesperson says. The Insurance Department now has a new supply of envelopes to replace the nearly exhausted stock of "Jim Brown" envelopes. "We have about 1,600 left," department spokesperson Amy Whittington says of the old stock. "We are trying to use them up, so we don't waste them."
Asked to comment on the continued use of the suspended insurance commissioner's name on state stationery, Sal Perricone, the local assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Brown deadpans: "Apparently somebody didn't get the memo [about Brown's conviction]."
Brown is serving a six-month sentence at the federal prison at Oakdale for lying to the FBI.
Lose a Connick, Keep a Connick
While Dale Atkins and Eddie Jordan spar to replace New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick in the Nov. 5 elections, the retiring district attorney's nephew Paul Connick is settling in for a second six-year term as DA of neighboring Jefferson Parish.
Paul Connick was recently re-elected without opposition -- and he has more than $350,000 in the bank for future campaigns.
In 1996, however, Paul Connick was in a bloody run-off election for DA against attorney Jack Capella, who finished first in the tough Sept. 21 primary election with 39 percent of the vote. Connick followed with 34 percent. Rounding out the field were lawyer Fred Hebee with 24 percent, and then-Harahan Mayor Provino "Vinny" Mosca, 3 percent.
"We were in a lot better shape this time than we were last time," Paul Connick recalled. "I had a record to run on this time."
Connick's campaign spent $1.2 million for his first election in '96, an amount equaled by Capella; Hebee spent more than $800,000 in the race. This time, as an incumbent, Paul Connick raised more than $400,000 and spent $69,440 of that amount for the challenge that never came.
The 33rd annual Institute of Politics reunion and fundraiser is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, at the New Orleans home of Bill and Susan Hess, says Ed Renwick, pollster and Loyola University political science professor. Tickets are $100 a couple. Contact Gayle Mumfrey at 865-3548 for more information.